Tension gripped Vansda taluka in Navsari district on Thursday when tribals were denied permission to erect a statue of tribal freedom fighter Birsa Munda at Hanumanbari cross road on the occasion of his birth anniversary on November 15.
On August 9 this year, the World Tribal Day, members of the Birsa Munda Yuvak Mandal (BMYM) in Vansda taluka had announced that they would install the statue of Birsa Munda on the circle at Hanumanbari village cross road, a kilometer away from Vansda town. The cross road falls on National Highway 56.
To generate awareness about the Birsa Munda statue among tribals, BMYM members along with Vansda Congress MLA Anant Patel had requested people to assemble at the location for the birth anniversary celebrations, through social media. Earlier this week, the organisation laid the foundation of the statue at the circle and obtained police permission for the event.
However, officials of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), who were also present on the occasion, razed the foundation of the statue. As per NHAI officials, construction or installation of any statue on National Highway should be approved by the authority. Members of the community were denied permission to erect the statue.
Talking to The Indian Express Congress MLA Anant Patel said, “Vansda taluka is tribal dominated. The residents wished that a statue of Birsa Munda should be installed. Their feelings were hurt after the authorities denied permission to install the statue and demolished the foundation. We have tried to pacify them. We reminded NHAI that a statue of Saraswati is installed on the main road junction in Dharampur just a few kilometers from here, which also falls on the national highway, but the officials failed to give any satisfactory answers.”
After the police tried to pacify tribal leaders, a garlanded photo of the freedom fighter was installed at the spot.
“We have come to know that the tribals will try to install the statue again in a few days,” Patel claimed.
Navsari Deputy Superintendent of police B S Mori said, “We have deployed police staff at the spot and at present the situation is peaceful. We have talked to the tribal leaders and told them not to take law in their hands.” NHAI Deputy Engineer could not be reached for comments.
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